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George Orwell

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Imagery Analysis

1984, Chapter 1
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Imagery Analysis:

George Orwell begins his novel 1984 with extremely dismal imagery, to connote the rest of the book. Through the imagery found in this excerpt, the reader can guess the type of setting the main character, Winston, is in and what his life is like. This imagery serves Orwell’s purpose well and adds to the overall effectiveness of the passage.

            The dismal imagery presents the dismal life of Winston in general. The “vile wind” and “swirl of gritty dust” present an extremely undesirable world, which is what Orwell is trying to create. His description of the oversized poster which was “too large for indoor display” and which “displayed and enormous face” presents how everything is off kilt. The image of Winston’s “veracious ulcer” and his struggle to walk up the stairs presents the unhealthiness of the surroundings. Finally, all these disturbing images help to connote the “hate week” mentioned in the excerpt. In our world, a week of hate would sound absurd and would somehow fit with the image presented by Orwell.

            Orwell purposefully creates this effect so as to amplify the negative attitude towards “hate week”. This dismal setting amplifies the disgust the reader holds towards the idea of hate week. This is factors into the rest of the book well because it places the reader in the exact mood Orwell is looking for so that they will reject the fascist world he is presenting.

            The use of dismal imagery is an extremely effective method to get the reader to reject Orwell’s world. It connotes the dismal society and achieves the effect Orwell is looking for, the rejection of a fascist society by the reader.

Vincent Andrews
World Author Website Project
Coral Gables Senior High School
IB English IV - period 2